Helena Dix as Vitellia. Photo: Michaella Edelstein Photography.

EXCITEMENT is mounting following the dress rehearsal for The National Opera’s premiere production of Mozart’s “La Clemenza di Tito”, opening at Llewellyn Hall tomorrow night (April 10) – and it’s not just the performers who are elated. 

Head of the ANU School Of Music, Kim Cunio, can hardly wipe the smile off his face at the thought of all the activity around the building, telling us, “We’ve been poking our heads into Llewellyn Hall and the standard is wonderful, a testament to the vision of Peter Coleman-Wright and the work undertaken by the leadership team of the company”.

Cunio stressed that it's important for the music school as it provides the opportunity for its young singers to perform alongside some of Australia’s best.

Bradley Daley as Tito and Eleanor Greenwood as Annio. Photo: Michaella Edelstein Photography.

Famous Australian baritone Coleman-Wright is directing and has gathered around him a hot team of Canberra-raised talents, including Canberra director-actor Ylaria Rogers as his assistant.

A few of them are Aussies but imports, like coloratura soprano Helena Dix, playing the manipulative Vitellia, and Bradley Daley, playing Emperor Tito.

Others, like mezzos Catherine Carby and Eleanor Greenwood, who play the male roles of Sesto and Annio respectively, and bass-baritone Andrew Collis, playing Publio, are School of Music graduates.

Dix, Carby and Greenwood have in recent years trodden the international stage; Dix at New York’s Metropolitan Opera and Carby at Covent Garden.

If you look down onto the floor (not exactly an orchestra pit), into the expert team of musicians from the CSO, you’ll see Chinese-Australian conductor Dane Lam holding the baton, but behind the scenes, Canberra conductor Leonard Weiss will be conducting the chorus when it sings off-stage.

“It’s a real treat for me to be his assistant conductor for National Opera and to get to see his work for a longer block of time, understanding the process that goes into staging a major opera," Weiss told us yesterday (April 8).

"Dane has been very proactive in facilitating musical experiences for me, including stepping up to conduct some rehearsals… Similarly, I know that Ylaria Rogers, our assistant director and fellow Canberra arts friend, has had a number of learning experiences in this production.”

Coleman-Wright has been mindful of the basic purpose of the new Canberra Opera, which got its start with a bequest of $500,000 from opera lover, the late John Stuart Drabble, to encourage local singers. To that end, he has assembled a formidable chorus of 16 Canberra singers, tutored by Tobias Cole as chorus-master.

According to The National Opera’s producer, Stephanie McAllister, Coleman-Wright and his associate Mel Davies have designed the set to resemble the grassy knolls and grand steps of Rome’s Forum.

He has made sure to secure the very best when it comes to the look of the production. Lighting designer Mark Dyson is one of Australia’s hottest properties, notable for his work with Sydney Dance Company.

The costume designer will be Fiona Victoria Hopkins, who won a Canberra Critics' Circle award in 2020 for her designs in “Rockspeare Richard III” at EPIC.

In short, McAllister can’t resist this enthusiastic prediction – “It’s as if the Met and Covent Garden are coming to Canberra”.

“La Clemenza di Tito”, Llewellyn Hall, April 10, 13,15, 17, book here.

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